Erin Smith

Professor - American Studies and Literature
Tags: 19th & 20th - Century American Literatures & Cultures History of the Book Gender Studies Popular Culture HUSL LIT

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Literature and Womens Studies
Duke University - 1997
B.S. - Social Science
Michigan State University - 1991
B.A. - English
Michigan State University - 1991

Research Areas

Research Interests
I am a scholar of American popular literature and a historian of print culture.  My larger intellectual project is to write a more representative American literary history, situating more conventionally literary works in a larger cultural field of printed materials and communities of readers. I am currently working on a book about the reception of American women’s cold-war crime fiction.

My most recent book, What Would Jesus Read?: Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America (U of North Carolina P, 2015)  examines selected best-selling religious books; the literary, religious, and commercial institutions that make them available to readers; and the communities of readers they help construct in twentieth-century America.  Bringing together scholarship on book history, consumer culture, and lived religion in America, it examines how religion continues to shape what and how we read, even in this secular age.  Fellowships and summer stipends from the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Louisville Institute funded the project.  Related work was published in journals such as American Literary History, Book History, and Canadian Review of American Studies. 

My first book, Hard-Boiled: Working-Class Readers and Pulp Magazines (Temple UP, 2000) was funded in part by a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and was nominated for an Anthony Award for the best nonfiction book published about mysteries.  It considers American hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and the mostly male, working-class readers who encountered it in pulp magazines and cheap paperbacks.  The project’s methodological innovation is to use a variety of unconventional sources--pulp magazine advertising, the memoirs of writers and publishers, Depression-era studies of adult reading habits, labor history--to reconstruct popular reading practices in the absence of records left by readers themselves.  I demonstrate how this fiction shaped working-class male readers into consumers by selling them what they wanted to hear—stories about embattled, white artisan-heroes who resisted encroaching commodity culture and the consuming women who came with it.  I argue that these readers were active participants in the creation of a working-class variant of consumer culture, a culture most scholars see reflecting the needs of middle-class women.


"Some Thoughts on Privilege, Oppression, and the World in the Classroom." Class and the College Classroom. Continuum, 2013. Reprinted from Radical Teacher 68 (2003): 23-26. 2013 - Publication
  "Popular Literature." Oxford Encyclopedia of American Intellectual and Cultural History. Ed. Joan Shelley Rubin and Scott Casper. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 664-70. 2013 - publications
"Religion and Popular Print Culture." U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920. Vol.6. Oxford History of Popular Print Culture. Ed. Christine Bold. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 277-92. 2012 - Publication
“Pulp Sensations.” Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. Ed. David Glover and Scott McCracken. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 141-58.  2012 - Publication
Rev. of Spirituality, Inc.: Religion in the American Workplace by Lake Lambert III. Journal of American History 98 (2011): 925-26. 2011 - publications
 Rev. of SHARP-Brisbane Conference. SHARP News 20.3 (summer 2011): 1. Partially reprinted in Broadsheet: Newsletter of the Bibliography Society of Australia and New Zealand. 2011 - publications
Rev. of Everything Was Better in America: Print Culture in the Great Depression by David Welky. Journal of American History 95.4 (Mar. 2009): 1213-14. 2009 - Publication
“Pulp Fiction.” Dictionary of American History Dynamic Reference. Ed. Gary Cross, Robert Maddox, and William Pencak. New York: Scribner’s, 2008. 2008 - Publication
The Religious Book Club: Print Culture, Consumerism and the Spiritual Life of American Protestants Between the Wars. Religion and the Culture of Print in America. Ed. Charles L. Cohen and Paul S. Boyer. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin P, 2008. 217-42. 2008 - Publication
Jesus, My Pal: Reading and Religion in Middlebrow America, Canadian Review of American Studies 37.2 (2007): 147-81. 2007 - Publication


University of Texas at Dallas [2016–Present]
Associate Professor
University of Texas at Dallas [2003–2016]
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Dallas [1997–2003]
Staff Assistant
Women's Studies, Duke University [1996–1997]
Simone de Beauvoir Named Instructor in Literature
Duke University [1996–1997]
Center for Teaching and Learning, Duke University [1995–1996]
Adult Literacy Tutor
Duke University [1995–1996]
Teaching Assistant
Women's Studies, Duke University [1994–1995]
Veteran Assistant
University Writing Program, Duke University [1994–1995]
English and University Writing Program, Duke University [1994–1995]


School of Interdisciplinary Studies Teaching Award - UT-Dallas [2020]
Nominee, Inclusive Excellence and Intercultural Teaching Award - UT-Dallas [2011]
Best Paper Prize, Religion and American Culture Caucus - American Studies Association [2004]
Anthony Award Finalist (best critical or scholarly work about mysteries) - Bouchercon [2001]
Teacher of the Year, School of General Studies - UT-Dallas [1999]


“Who Didn’t Do It? Genre, Politics, and Reader Responses to Killers of the Flower Moon.” Reception Studies Society Biannual Conference, Provo, UT, 28 Sept. 2019.
“Dangerously Good Women: Female Criminals and the Threat of Male Violence in American Women’s Cold-War Crime Fiction.” Girls! Girls! Girls!: Defining and Deconstructing Domestic Noir. University College, Dublin, 23 Aug. 2019.
“Gender, Nation, and the Literary Field of Post-War American Crime Fiction: The Case of Sisters in Crime.” Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing Annual Meeting. Amherst, MA, 18 July 2019.
“Dorothy Hughes’s The Blackbirder (1943): Thematizing Gender, Crime, and the State.” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C., 8 Mar. 2019.
“Gender, Information, and the State.” Novel Theory: Conference of the Society for Novel Studies. Ithaca, NY, 1 June 2018.

Additional Information


 |  American Studies Association (ASA)
 |  Modern Language Association (MLA)
 |  Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP)

Teaching Interests
 American Literature and Culture
 History of the Book, Reading, and Issues in Print Culture
 Gender Studies and Feminist Theory
 Literary and Cultural Theory
 Popular Culture

Educational Equity Programming / Experience
 Discussion Facilitator. "Respect," GLSEN Greenhill School Teacher Training. Dallas, TX, 22 Aug. 2003.

 Discussion Group Leader. "What Difference Does Difference Make?"  Duke University 1997 Symposium on Diversity. Durham, NC, 28 Feb. - 1 Mar. 1997.

 Discussion Facilitator. "Changing the Scene: Teaching and Learning in Multicultural Classrooms," Duke University.  Durham, NC, 28-29 Mar. 1996.

 Graduate Assistant. "Lessons from the Majority:  Women's Studies for Higher Education," Appalachian State University.  Boone, NC, 6-7 Oct. 1994. 

 Working Group. "Gender, Body, Self," Duke University. Durham, NC, summer 1993. 


Sisters in Crime Research Fellowship
$500 - Sisters in Crime [2017/07–2017/12]
$25,000 - National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC [2002/09–2003/05]
Louisville Institute Summer Stipend
$8,000 - Louisville Institute [2002/07–2002/08]
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend
$5,000 - National Endowment for the Humanities [2002/05–2002/06]
Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities
- Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities [1991/09–1996/05]